Walmart has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over protests led and inspired by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
The move by Walmart comes as some workers have announced a strike on Black Friday — the busiest day of the year for retailers.
Filing with the NLRB suggests that the protests have caught the attention of Wal-Mart, which has no union-represented workers in the United States.
OUR Walmart and another group, Making Change at Walmart, are affiliated with the UFCW, which represents more than 1 million workers including many at retailers that compete with Walmart. According to a filing with the Labor Department, OUR Walmart was a subsidiary of the UFCW as of 2011. It is unclear whether it remains a subsidiary or has legally separated from the union.
“The fact that Wal-Mart is responding in such a public way is itself both unusual and indicative that they truly don’t want to see this spread,” Shaiken said.
The NLRB typically receives a charge and investigates. At times, it resolves issues without issuing a complaint, spokesman Tony Wagner said. While most investigations take about six weeks, they can be expedited under certain criteria, he said.
Activities over the past year or longer “have caused disruptions to Walmart’s business, resulted in misinformation being shared publicly about our company, and created an uncomfortable environment and undue stress on Walmart’s customers, including families with children,” Walmart outside counsel Steven Wheeless said in a letter sent on Friday to Deborah Gaydos, assistant general counsel of the UFCW.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits such picketing for more than 30 days without the filing of a representation petition. The NLRA also requires the NLRB to seek a federal court injunction against such activity, the letter states.
The OUR Walmart group of current and former Walmart employees has been organizing 1,000 protests including strikes and what it called online actions that began this week and will culminate on Black Friday.
For example, workers walked off the job in Seattle on Thursday and in Dallas on Friday, OUR Walmart said.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said that anyone who is not an employee is prohibited from coming onto its owned or controlled parking lots or other facilities to solicit, hand out literature or otherwise engage in any demonstration.
Wal-Mart said that it intends for the UFCW to be held accountable for any injury or property damage that may occur as a result of the actions led by the union, OUR Walmart or any of its other affiliates.
It’s ironic that during a week that has seen the closing of an American business icon due to union pressure and unreasonable demands — Hostess, Inc. - Walmart would feel the wrath of the UFCW.
Let’s face it; Walmart is not the best place in the United States to work. Wages are low, benefits are niggardly, and working conditions can be outrageous — especially at Superstores.
But nobody is holding a gun to anyone’s head to work there. Walmart has a huge problem with turnover — 50% of employees leave within a year. This is a problem that costs them hundreds of millions of dollars in training costs nationwide, not to mention creating a workplace environment that is not conducive to employee happiness or security, or the maximization of profit.
But for whatever reason, Walmart refuses to offer competitive wages, decent benefits, and good working conditions. They are almost begging the union to come in, and if the UFCW gets their foot in the door, it won’t be long before the entire company is unionized.
Walmart is well within its rights to file the complaint. But their labor practices leave much to be desired and addressing the problems in their workforce will go a long way toward keeping the UFCW from making any headway in unionizing the company.